Honesty and integrity aren’t words you would traditionally associate with football agents.
The name alone conjures up images of flash suits, fat cigars and hard bargains.
But DRN Sports, in just over 12 months, are started to change that perspective.
Agents are now known as intermediaries, as of April 2015, as FIFA look to establish a more transparent system.
And transparency is a key word for DRN, which was set up by qualified solicitors and registered FA Intermediaries David Lawson and Nick Cassidy, as well as Kiko Rodriguez – father of former Claret Jay – and former professionals Gareth Seddon and Jason Jarrett.
Lawson, of Hargreaves Street firm Donald Race & Newton, explained: “We’d been looking at setting up a sports department.
“You hear all about these agents and players not being looked after, and I think we cover all bases – we can speak from a parent’s perspective, with what Jay’s been through, and while DRN hasn’t been set up to do the legal work, it can do if necessary. Some people have a different view of solicitors, but we are regulated, and we can cover contracts, or problems that arise. We also introduced Gareth Seddon to the business, and it’s really taken off.”
Kiko left his job as an assembly manager at Futaba Tenneco UK’s Liverpool Road site after 25 years to take on the new role, to act as a consultant with Seddon and Jarrett, and admits he wishes he had done it earlier: “I love it, I was in a factory for 25 years and they were good with me, but I know Dave has been thinking about this for many years and hasn’t jumped in with two feet, he’s thought about it, done his homework and explained it to me.
“It’s working, and this business is going to grow. It has grown quickly already.
“It’s about trust. We want to do things properly, we’ve been up front and transparent and clubs have let us in – I’m proud of that. We’re doing things right. I’m treating them as I’d treat Jay.
“We won’t say, ‘come to a car park and sign a piece of paper’, we go to the houses and talk, go away, and if you want us, give us a ring.
“We have lost players through it, but at least I can sleep at night.
“There are others out there doing what we do, but we feel we’re quite unique.”
The business is exactly that, a business, but DRN are determined to do right by the players on their books, whether they are fortunate to make it in the game or not.
They currently have just over a dozen of the best young players in the North West, and two promising ladies’ footballers as well, and Kiko said: “We’ve set the business up because there’s that many young lads out there who aren’t all going to make it, and we want to try and look after them.
“We tell the parents everything about us, what we are trying to do for them. One thing we don’t do is promise them they will become footballers, because that’s the worst thing you can do.
“Once you promise that, they expect it. We’re up front, I’ve been through it with Jay, he’s had his agents, and he’s got a good one now, who he trusts. But our way is to look after them from when they are young, to when they finish, and give them that full support.”
He added: “We’ve got a few lads who got released, but we haven’t dumped them, we’re working with them and got them into clubs on trials.
“We haven’t given up, one or two may go to Uni or whatever, and we do things like that, if someone wants to go into physiotherapy, we’ll try to help with that.
“It’s a business, we can’t get away from it, but if we do it right, and it doesn’t work out for some, we know we’ve tried our best. We can’t make them become footballers, we’re not coaches, and if they’re not quite good enough, we don’t want to put them on a pile.
“We might say, ‘good luck’ and keep in contact as best we can, but the main thing is to get them into football and enjoy it.
“As a parent, I went through it with Jay, you’re thinking ‘what happens if he gets released?’
“I know how the parents are feeling, so we try and calm the parents, not to put pressure on their child, enjoy it, hopefully get the right coaching, and we’ll support you going forwards.
“If they make the next step, we’re there for you, if they don’t, we’re still there for you.
“We have a really good relationship and it’s working.”
The inevitable question is will Jay be joining his father with DRN?: “He’s already getting looked after, but I’d never not help him if he asked. But we don’t tap people up, even though he’s my son.
“As much as I want him, I can’t disturb him as a parent. People are saying when is he coming with us, but we’ve been honest, why should he? He’s happy.”
DRN have cultivated some high-profile contacts in just over 12 months. Seddon played at Salford City, owned by the Class of 92, and DRN recently took on Manchester United legends Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Heaven, the rooftop pitch at Hotel Football.
Kiko hasn’t lost any of his ability, nutmegging Gary Neville, and he smiled: “That was an experience! They were incredible with us, and we appreciated that. We get on with them, and they said, anything you need, let us know. We’ve not used them, but going forward, we know we can give them a call. We have gained a lot of contacts in the last 12 months – it’s been incredible how things have grown.”